National Geographic Channel, 2013
Our friends at Nat Geo asked us to help their viewers participate in "Ultimate Survival Alaska," a weekly adventure series, with a content-rich mini-site and interactive series companion, so we set out to forge an online experience that would make viewers feel the call of the wild. We made sure to design the project so that it could be enjoyed using a computer or a tablet from the comfort of a warm couch; less wild, perhaps, but certainly more comfortable. This second-screen hybrid not only provided an enhanced, frostbite-free co-viewing experience, but also let viewers investigate content from previous and future episodes.
With so much of our modern lives available instantly and on-demand, it's easy to forget that truly wild places still exist and that humans are not always at the top of the food chain. National Geographic Channel's "Ultimate Survival Alaska" juxtaposed the unspoiled beauty of America's northernmost state and the dangers inherent in raw nature as eight seasoned adventurers tested their mettle by trekking across the Alaskan wilderness. Using only their wits and what they could carry with them, these modern outdoorsmen retraced the steps of early 1900s National Geographic explorers who braved this wild country.
To set the stage for the online audience, we made a stylish site skin that literally embeds the show content into the side of a cliff, with several men hiking on the summit and one explorer rappelling down the side of the content window. A color palette comprised principally of lush earth tones complements the nature theme of the show and accentuates its pioneering spirit.
With the premiere of each new episode, the site unlocked a custom interactive topographical map that features videos, photos, and factoids related to each week’s challenge. A gallery of the intrepid show stars enabled fans to vote on their favorites, while embedded Twitter and Facebook features tracked what people were saying about the show and provided an easy way to share the adventure with others. Behind the scenes, a robust custom content management system helped Nat Geo’s website rangers keep the site current.
Some say that the Alaskan wilderness is one of the last untamed frontiers on Earth, and with a population density of 1.2 people per square mile, it's fair to say that things are a little wilder in Alaska than in the rest of the U.S. After watching a few episodes of the series, we realized it's probably for the best that we stay in our cozy studio in West Reading, PA and leave the wilderness to the professionals.